Sep 12, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) during the fourth quarter against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium. The New England Patriots won 13-10. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
The Patriots are set to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday, who despite starting this season 0-2, will present a big challenge to the Pats, specifically on the offensive side of the ball. They boast a lot of talent on the back end, beginning with lock down corner Darrelle Revis, and continuing with safeties Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron. Their front seven is also a talented group, and there are a lot of players that the Patriots will have to keep an eye on, including fourth year man Gerald McCoy, along with Adrian Clayborn, who is in his third season with the Bucs. There are a number of things that the struggling Patriots offense has to do to be effective against this stout unit, but here are three specific keys that I think will help New England be effective on the offensive side of the ball come Sunday.
1. Run The Football
Notice that I did not say “run the football well”, but if the Patriots stick to the ground game for the majority of the contest, huge opportunities in the passing game will emerge. The Bucs’ front four is near the top of the NFL in stopping the run, and even though they only rank 12th in the league currently, I have a feeling that they will once again rise to the top of the NFL much like they did last year. If the Pats continue to pound at them with Ridley and Blount, it will bring up the linebackers, and open up some space in the middle of the field for Brady to work with, and with the chemistry struggles that he currently has with his receivers, this will help him dramatically. The Pats may be hesitant to deploy this strategy, because of the lack of run production it may have, but the rewards in the passing game could be huge, and it may be the difference between a win and a loss.
2. Stay Away From Revis
I think that this one is an obvious choice. Even though Revis is coming off knee surgery, he is still the best cornerback in the NFL. His ability to completely take a receiver out of the game is unrivaled, and when teams throw at him, the results are usually not pretty. Revis will probably end up on Kenbrell Thompkins for the majority of the game, so if I were you, I would not start Thompkins in fantasy football this week. If the Pats stay away from Revis’ side of the field, they could have a semi-productive day in the passing game. Julian Edelman will once again catch a lot of balls from the slot, and maybe Aaron Dobson has gotten over his case of the drops. I think that Brady is smart enough to not go after Revis, but there is always a part of every professional athlete that says, “I want to prove that I can beat this guy”. Let’s hope that Brady fights this urge, and does the smart thing on Sunday.
3. Use The Hurry Up In Small Doses
One of the staples of a Brady-led Patriot attack, is the hurry up offense. New England introduced this to the league in the early 2000’s, and now 10 years later, nobody runs it better. However I think that there are times where they should just use it as much as possible, and then others where its use should be minimized. This week is a situation where the hurry up offense should not be utilized as frequently as normal. Until the Patriots receivers begin to develop a solid rapport with their quarterback, most Patriots ball games will be close, low scoring affairs. In this scenario, I don’t think anybody wants the Patriots defense to be gassed from having to go back onto the field after another failed Pats drive in which they used the hurry up. A much better strategy in my eyes, is to control the ball a little bit more, give the rookies some time to adjust, and possibly be more effective in moving the football down the field. At the same time, New England’s defense is getting its rest, and it is a win-win situation for everybody (except the fans that want an exciting football game).